Paris – Rafael Nadal He insists he doesn’t know for sure if any match at Roland Garros might be his last at a place he loves, a place he loves.
For now, if he keeps winning and continues to perform the way he did during his massive quarter-final victory over his long-time rival. Novak Djokovic Starting in May and ending in June, Nadal will have more chances to play.
With a combination of superb shots and his trademark resilience, top seed Nadal edged past French Open champion Djokovic 6-2, 4-6, 6-2, 7-6 (4) to move one step closer to his goal. The 14th Grand Slam tournament on clay and what will be the 22nd trophy overall, adding to the records he already holds.
“One of those magical nights for me,” Nadal said.
The match began shortly after nine in the evening on Tuesday and concluded more than four hours after one in the morning on Wednesday.
“TV decides. This is the world we live in,” Djokovic said of the late start.
The arc said this was a quarter-final, but it looked like a final – from the quality of play to the quality of the effort, from the anticipation that preceded it to the atmosphere that surrounded it.
The only component missing: a trophy was not handed to the winner.
Nadal turns 36 on Friday when he faces the third seed Alexander Zverev in the semi-finals. When the subject of Nadal’s future was brought up during his court interview, he smiled.
“By the way, see you in a couple of days,” Nadal said. “That’s the only thing I can say.”
It will be difficult for any match to live up to this match.
No game, point, stroke, or, indeed, a move came with a hint of indifference. Both men gave their all. Nothing came easily.
Nadal’s 3-0 lead in the second set did him no good. He ended up with Djokovic and later said, “I thought, OK, I’m back in the game.”
But Djokovic’s 3-0 lead in fourth didn’t do him any good, though it served him well at 5-3, standing on one point from forcing fifth twice. Nadal saved those set points and broke there, then escaped with the closing tiebreak, tapping 6-1 and never losing focus after his first three points were gone.
Djokovic, who won 22 straight sets up to the 49-minute opening match against Nadal, said, “I lost to a better player today. I had my chance. You didn’t use it. That is it.”
This confrontation was the fifty-ninth, more than any other two men had played against each other in the Open Era. Nadal reduced Djokovic’s series lead to 30-29 while improving to 8-2 against his rival at Roland Garros.
Nadal is now 110-3 for his career in place. Two of those losses came against Djokovic, including in the semifinals last year. This time around, Nadal made sure that Djokovic stayed behind in the Slam tournament with 20. Nadal broke their three-way tie with Roger Federer That number by capturing the Australian Open in January, when Djokovic was unable to play because he had not been vaccinated against COVID-19.
It should come as no surprise that they were involved in points so involved – 57 of at least nine hits, with one that lasted 25 – before some of them were finished, people in the stands were shooting gasps or “Aaaah”! ‘or ‘Awwww!’ ‘, they draw a reprimanded hiss to ‘Shhhhh! In response to that.
President Damien Duomosoa’s referee may have set a record, had those records been kept, most of the time saying “S’il vous plait”, to appeal to spectators to settle in and allow play to continue.
Nadal heard more support in the form of “Ra-fa!” or “Vamos!” or “Te quiero! I heard with no hesitation.”
As time went on and it got colder—less than 60 degrees Fahrenheit—Nadal and Djokovic embodied the words in large clay letters in French and English along the face of the basement of the arena, attributed to Roland Garros, the world’s first war fighter pilot the facility is named after him: “Victory Belongs to the most stubborn.”
Initially, and down on the stretch, Nadal was flailing the baseline back and forth, pushing and pulling Djokovic this way or that, up and down, until a chance arose for a clean win. Djokovic reacted to his mistakes by moving his eyes, shaking his head or sticking out his palms as if to say, “What’s going on?”
Nadal has shown no signs of slowing down or a little upset due to the chronic pain in his left foot that often flares up and keeps him off the tour for the latter half of 2021 and has grown up again ahead of the French Open.
Nadal betrayed no trace of fatigue from his five-set fight against the ninth seed Felix Auger-Aliassime In the fourth round on Sunday that lasted 4 hours and 21 minutes – almost twice as long as Djokovic achieved that day.
“I’m not surprised at all,” Djokovic said. “It’s not the first time that, after a few days of being injured and barely walking, he’s been able to come out in a 100 percent physique.”
The Associated Press contributed to this report.